I absolutely LOVE teaching art classes for kids. The kids are so open. Willing. They are happy to dive into whatever we are making, often without even knowing what the final product will look like.
Sometimes I show the kids samples so they can see different interpretations of the process. But not always. Because often the kids will think theirs has to look exactly like the sample.
I recently taught a Changing Story book making class. I intentionally didn’t show them what the finished book would look like. Instead, we began by brainstorming nouns and verbs and adjectives. The dry erase board was filled with words like hot dogs, zebra, flowers, puppies and run, play, sweat, dance and smelly, tall, fat, purple. Together, we combined some of the words into silly sentences. Then the kids wrote their own sentences.
Once the kids had their content we began on the construction of the actual book. One twelve year old girl kept asking why are we doing this step? What are the lines for? Why do I have to measure this?
Instead of explaining the process, I asked her if she’d be willing to NOT know, and maybe feel excited when she figured it out. I asked her if she could just trust the process.
She thought about it for a minute and then said yes.
She seemed to relax as she drew the lines across her pages, then wrote her word phrases in the boxes she had created. When we finally got to the step of cutting the lines between the phrases, her face lit up. “OH!” she said, “I get it now!”
All around the room the kids were discovering that, by cutting the pages in thirds, the story would change, depending on which part of the page they turned.
After class I asked the twelve year old how it was to just follow the steps without knowing why. She smiled and said she was really glad I didn’t give it all away.
Sure, sometimes we need to know why we are doing something. We need to know what’s next, so we can be ready. But NOT knowing can be equally valuable. Not knowing gives us a chance to be surprised, delighted, and present in what we are doing in the moment.
Several years ago a friend and I were having lunch and I was bemoaning that I couldn’t see how I was going to do some big thing with my life. She said, “How about if it’s ok that you don’t know? How would it be if you just let it unfold?”
Her words struck me so deeply. “I would LOVE that!” I said. “But how do I do that?” Of course she laughed, because it was all about NOT doing.
For the past few years, I’ve been practicing this letting go, allowing things to unfold. Being OK with not knowing.
And it’s been amazing. Just taking one step at a time and then, just like the girl in my class, experiencing such delight when suddenly I see how it all comes together.
Where in your own life can you let go and not know?
How can you embrace this idea of allowing the process to unfold?
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